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Afghanistan: March 2013

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai spent last weekend in Qatar, speaking with Qatari officials about mediating possible talks with Taliban officials as the 2014 deadline for NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan approaches. Australia announced it will withdraw most troops by the end of this year, closing down at least one major NATO base. Two newly appointed U.S. officials -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry -- paid visits to the country last month, making efforts to shore up relations with Karzai, who has been stepping up his criticism of the U.S. and NATO. The photos below are just a glimpse of this conflict over the past month, part of the ongoing series here on Afghanistan. [41 photos]

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A child watches Afghan National Security Forces and coalition forces escort a district governor in Helmand province, Afghanistan, on March 17, 2013. (USMC/Sgt. Pete Thibodeau)
A child watches Afghan National Security Forces and coalition forces escort a district governor in Helmand province, Afghanistan, on March 17, 2013. (USMC/Sgt. Pete Thibodeau)
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter flies over Ghazni province, Afghanistan, on March 14, 2013. (US Army/Staff Sgt. Jerry Griffis) #
A Marine Special Operations Team member fires an AK-47 during night fire sustainment training in Helmand province, on March 28, 2013. (USMC/Sgt. Pete Thibodeau) #
Hundreds of Afghans wait to see the holy flag at the Kart-e Sakhi mosque in Kabul, on March 21, 2013. Afghanistan celebrated Nowruz, marking the first day of spring and the beginning of the year on the Persian calendar. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) #
Afghan men wait to see the holy flag, at the Kart-e Sakhi mosque in Kabul, on March 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Ali Hamed Haghdoust) #
A Marine Special Operations Team member watches a fellow MSOT member fill barriers for an Afghan Local Police checkpoint in Helmand province, on March 30, 2013. (USMC/Sgt. Pete Thibodeau) #
An Afghan soldier walks by a damaged bus being pulled by a crane following a suicide attack in Kabul, on February 27, 2013. A man wearing a black overcoat and carrying an umbrella as a shelter against the heavy snow crossed a street in the Afghan capital early Wednesday morning toward an idling bus filled with Afghan soldiers, where he laid down and wiggled underneath. Then he exploded, engulfing the undercarriage of the bus in flames. (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq) #
A trail of bloody slush at the site of a suicide attack against a bus carrying Afghan army personnel in Kabul, on February 27, 2013. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images) #
A wounded Afghan boy receives treatment at a hospital in Kunar province on February 13, 2013. A NATO air strike killed 10 civilians, mostly women and children, in a raid on a Taliban hideout in a remote region of eastern Afghanistan, local officials said. "Five children, four women and a man were killed in the raid," Kunar provincial governor, Sayed Fazulullah Wahidi, told AFP. (Namatullah Karyab/AFP/Getty Images) #
Afghan artist Massoud Hassanzada from Morcha, a rock band, performances during a concert to celebrate Nowruz in Herat, on March 23, 2013. (Aref Karimi/AFP/Getty Images) #
U.S. Marines with 1st Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, conduct a demolition operation in Helmand province, on March 17, 2013, disposing of unserviceable ammunition and other military items. (USMC/Sgt. Anthony L. Ortiz) #
An Afghan woman carries water at the Band-e Amir lake on the outskirts of Bamiyan city, on March 2, 2013. Bamiyan, some 200 kilometers (124 miles) northwest of Kabul, stands in a deep green and lush valley stretching 100 kilometers through central Afghanistan, on the former Silk Road that once linked China with Central Asia and beyond. (Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images) #
Afghan Scouts salute coalition and other volunteers at the closing ceremony of Afghan Scouts' Travel Safety Training Day held at Marastoon orphanage, on March 29, 2013. The event was centered on teaching travel safety training, an event supported by coalition members volunteering to run booths for a round robin of skill training. (USAF/Tech. Sgt. Joseph Prouse) #
Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles wait in a staging area for onward movement at an undisclosed base in Southwest Asia, on March 20, 2013. The joint team of Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Central Command's DDOC will play a major role in moving the more than 50,000 Coalition military vehicles from Afghanistan that will need to be recovered or re-positioned abroad. (USAF/Senior Master Sgt. George Thompson) #
Afghan men walk through the debris of their destroyed school in the village of Budyali, Nangarhar province, on March 19, 2013. Taliban militants attacked the nearby district headquarters in July 2011, then took refuge in the school. The Afghan National Army requested help from coalition forces, who responded with drones, fighter jets and rockets, leaving the school destroyed, according to village elders. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) #
Children wait for their relatives to arrive home as soldiers from Headquarters Company 1st Battalion The Scots Guards return to their base at Bourlon Barracks and are reunited with their families following their recent deployment to Afghanistan on February 27, 2013 in Catterick, England. (Ian Forsyth/Getty Images) #
Soldiers from Headquarters Company 1st Battalion The Scots Guards return to their base at Bourlon Barracks and are reunited with their families following their recent deployment to Afghanistan on February 27, 2013 in Catterick, England. (Ian Forsyth/Getty Images) #
A CH-47F Chinook helicopter with 2nd Battalion, 104th Regiment, Connecticut National Guard, Task Force Brawler, sling loads a ground vehicle on March 20, 2013, at Multinational Base Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan. (US Army/Sgt. Luke Rollins) #
An Afghan commando from 2nd Company, 7th Special Operations Kandak fires a rocket propelled grenade on a range during training in Washer district, Helmand province, on March 23, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Benjamin Tuck) #
Wilbur, a Marine Special Operations Team member, takes a break with his handler after successfully sweeping a build site for an Afghan Local Police checkpoint in Helmand province, on March 30, 2013. (USMC/Sgt. Pete Thibodeau) #
A model presents an Afghan traditional dress at a fashion show, launched by Young Women for Change (YWC), in Kabul, on February 8, 2013. The YWC organization is made up of volunteers across Afghanistan, who organize events to help empower Afghan women and improve their lives through social and economical participation. The creations at the fashion show are designed by Afghan women. (Reuters/Omar Sobhani) #
Soldiers of the Italian Alpine Brigade Taurinense line up as Italian General Ignazio Gamba, is introduced as the new ISAF Regional Command West, RC-West, during a ceremony in Herat, Afghanistan, on March 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Hoshang Hashimi) #
Afghan Hazara men transport skis on a donkey prior to the Afghan Ski Challenge in the Shahidan Valley of Bamiyan province, on March 1, 2013. Afghanistan has suffered decades of conflict but an annual ski race in the Hindu Kush offers one glimpse of a different future. Held in the mountains of the Hindu Kush about 180 kilometers (110 miles) west of Kabul, the "Afghan Ski Challenge" pits local and foreign competitors against each other in a grueling test of physical fitness. (Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images) #
A French competitor launches himself during the Afghan Ski Challenge in the Shahidan Valley of Bamiyan province, on March 1, 2013. (Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images) #
An Afghan Hazara teenager watches the Afghan Ski Challenge in the Shahidan Valley of Bamiyan province, on March 1, 2013. Seventeen Afghan ski challengers and twelve foreigners participated in the third annual Afghan Ski Challenge. (Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images) #
Afghan Hazara Sajad Hossaini (center) celebrates his victory at the awards ceremony of the Afghan Ski Challenge in Bamiyan province, on March 1, 2013. (Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images) #
An Afghan man, wearing traditional eyeliner, in Kabul on February 24, 2013. (Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images) #
A Hungarian army soldier holds his son as the last unit of the Hungarian Provincial Reconstruction Team deployed in Afghanistan returns home at Budapest Liszt Ferenc International Airport in Budapest, Hungary, on March 28, 2013 after the Hungarian PRT of NATO forces finished its mission in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/MTI, Tamas Kovacs) #
An Afghan Security officer stands over the dead body of a suspected suicide bomber in Kabul, on February 24, 2013. Afghan intelligence officers shot dead at least one would-be suicide bomber in Kabul's most well-protected area home to some of the country's most high-profile targets, Kabul police said. (Reuters/Omar Sobhani) #
Kochi women walk along the Kabul-Bagram road north of Kabul, on April 2, 2013. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images) #
Tracy Dice Johnson holds a flag from a "widow's box" that platoon mates of her wife prepared during a service they had for their fallen comrade, on March 20, 2013, in Raeford, North Carolina. When her wife was killed in Afghanistan last year, the North Carolina National Guardswoman heard about it from her sister-in-law. Although Sgt. Donna Johnson had listed Dice as her next-of-kin, Army casualty officers informed Johnson's mother of her death first because of a federal law that prohibits the U.S. government from recognizing same-sex unions. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome) #
Afghan National Army Special Forces soldiers with School of Excellence, prepare for an inspection during a Ministry of Defense demonstration in Kabul province, on March 16, 2013. (US Army/Pfc. James K. McCann) #
Mohammed Isaq weeps as he tells the story of his nephew's arrest by U.S Special Forces in Maidan Shahr, Wardak province, on March 10, 2013. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, infuriated by villager reports of forced detentions and mass arrests, gave U.S. Special Forces two weeks to vacate Wardak province, located barely 30 kilometers (24 miles) from the Afghan capital of Kabul. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) #
U.S. Service members watch as Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Jackie Bob and Cassie Trammell perform during the 76th USO tour at Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province on March 1, 2013. (USMC/Cpl. Alejandro Pena) #
Women in the Afghan Uniform Police (AUP) take cover while practicing a high-risk traffic stop during their training on Combat Outpost Matun Hill, Khost province, on February 25, 2013. The day's training taught the AUP how to safely conduct a traffic stop and search a vehicle. (US Army/Sgt. Kimberly Trumbull) #
Afghan men chant "U.S. special operations forces out!" as several hundred demonstrators march to the Afghan parliament building to protest against the continued presence of U.S. commandos in Afghanistan's troubled Wardak province, on March 16, 2013. The demonstrators were demanding the release of nine local citizens they believe were detained by the U.S. forces. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) #
Musical instruments lie on the ground in front of members of the military during a ceremony handing over the Bagram prison to Afghan authorities, at the U.S. airbase in Bagram, north of Kabul, on March 25, 2013. (Reuters/Mohammad Ismail) #
Clinton Romesha, a former active duty Army Staff Sergeant, after he was presented with the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry by U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House, on February 11, 2013 in Washington, D.C. Romesha received the Medal of Honor for actions during combat operations against an armed enemy at Combat Outpost Keating, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan, on October 3, 2009. (Alex Wong/Getty Images) #
An Afghan policeman offers evening prayers on a hill overlooking Kabul, on March 31, 2013. (AP Photo/Ahmad Jamshid) #
Former Taliban militants attend a ceremony with the Afghan government after handing over their weapons in Herat, on February 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Hoshang Hoshimi) #
Lesleigh Coyer, 25, of Saginaw, Michigan, lies down in front of the grave of her brother, Ryan Coyer, who served with the U.S. Army in both Iraq and Afghanistan, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, on March 11, 2013. Coyer died of complications from an injury sustained in Afghanistan. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque) #

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